Concerned grandmother

My soon-to-be two-year-old greatgrandson is adorable and funny, but exhibits some very dangerous behaviors. He runs like the wind and unless my granddaughter holds his hand all the way to the car, he runs away and will not stop when called. Last weekend he ran into the road and down the hill toward my house - fortunately we live on a deadend dirt road, but if a car had been coming down the road he could have been struck. I watched him for an hour while his mother was doing some cleaning, and I placed my chair inside the fenced backyard. He stood at the gate and screamed for his mother for 25 minutes and attempted several times to climb the fence. When I finally went over to him and picked him up, he fell asleep in my lap. But his tired/hungry meltdowns are like none I have ever experienced; he screams louder than any toddler I have ever heard. I have seen that because he has few language skills yet, it is frustrating to him not being able to tell us what he wants or needs. He has locked his mother out of the house, has opened the front door and gone outside alone, and his parents are now considering putting in a screen door to his bedroom that locks from the outside to keep him safely contained and in the house in case a parent has to go to the bathroom or take a shower. To me this is extreme behavior, but I have taken an approach of calm and speaking to him softly, which seems to work better than yelling in frustration. He is certainly better behaved at my house than anywhere else, and treats our dogs and cats gently and lovingly. Does anyone have any ideas on safe containment and control of meltdowns?

Dr Maud Answers

It sounds as if your grandson is pushing his limits. The fact that he is better behaved for you leads me to believe there is nothing actually wrong with your grandson other than not having clear boundaries at home.

It is important that the messages he gets are consistent from time to time and from person to person. If sometimes running away is a game, he won't understand when it's dangerous. There should be clear and consistent behavior when he is going out, so he will always need to be holding someone's hand, for example. He also needs lots of positive encouragement when he does the "right" thing.

Perhaps your granddaughter would benefit from the Talking to Toddlers audio course. For more information, click here

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